As Broadway remains closed through Labor Day Weekend, theatergoers are itching to get back to The Great White Way – but not without masks or until it is safe.
A new poll from The New York Times/Siena College Research Institute shows that Broadway fans are less willing to come back to the theater because they are concerned that other audience members will not follow certain health guidelines, including utilizing masks and practicing social distancing. The poll asked 769 New York State residents – who had attended at least one show in 2019 – if they would attend Broadway performances following the reopening. Nearly 60% said that they would not likely return.
While Labor Day is the set reopening date for the time being, industry executives believe that theaters will likely not open until January 2021. One producer, frustrated with the optimism, told Vanity Fair: “When can people go to the theater again? Not until there’s a fucking vaccine.”
Senior citizens and tourists – two of the most prominent theatergoers – will not head back to Broadway anytime soon, which may push back the date even longer. Only 39% of those surveyed said they would see a show if it opened around September 1, while 57% said they would return by the end of the year.
More than 70% of respondents said they would return to a live performance this year if the venue sold tickets that would separate theatergoers by six feet. Additionally, 90% of surveyors said their return would require professional cleaners to disinfect the theater or concert hall between shows.
Even when shows do return, theaters won’t necessarily be the same. Insiders believe that shows will slowly reopen; a handful of top-grossing Broadway performances will be the first to return, with 41 theaters still remaining quiet regarding the status of their shows. The Tony Awards, which would usually take place earlier this year, has been postponed, further contributing to Broadway’s huge loss in revenue.
While safety protocols have been discussed – including temperature checks and drones to disperse disinfectants – Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin said social distancing “won’t work for Broadway.”
Already, Martin said that her inbox is full of requests from theater fans, begging the league to resume operations again. However, she said “we won’t come back before it’s safe.”